A Look Back — and Forward
What is your memory of the “state of fundraising” in 2003/2004?
Ellen Church, president, Craver, Mathews, Smith & Co.
We were worried about retention and the cost of acquiring new donors. We wondered when digital would surpass the mail as the No. 1 channel in our fundraising programs. We were focused on how we could convert more “regular” donors into monthly donors. We wondered how we compared to other groups in our sector in benchmarking reports. We were concerned about how the economy and decisions made in Washington would impact fundraising because it was year-end and we had a lot of hope and income resting on the last quarter of the year. And how can we get more younger donors? Oh, I’m sorry — did you say 2003/2004 or 2013/2014?
On a more serious look back, in March 2003 CMS sent a thorough memo to our clients, authored by Roger Craver, about the state of fundraising. The subject line was “The Economy, War and Their Impact on Fundraising.” Consumers were, at the time, experiencing what was being called the worst confidence of crisis in the last 35 years — and consumer confidence equated donor confidence. Among other highlights: Unemployment was at 6 percent, retirement accounts were dwindling, oil and gas prices were increasing, stock prices had fallen for three straight years, war was on the horizon, and corporate scandals were on the rise. The economy was the No. 1 worry of most Americans, and a leading market research firm that advised the commercial world counseled its clients to prepare for war in what was dubbed, “The New Age of Anxiety.”
The good news was that even though consumer confidence had declined, consumer spending had not yet taken the same nosedive. We advised our clients about the importance of staying flexible and fluid. Big words to the wise were, “… having (less) mail out there raises more money than no mail at all” as we spoke of shrinking list universes as a result of decreased mail after 9/11/2001.